A sweet treat is supposed to make you feel good. So why does sugar make your teeth hurt?
A sugary treat can be rewarding and relaxing. But sugar spoils all the fun when it triggers tooth pain and sensitivity. So why are your teeth sensitive to sugar?
You might know tooth sensitivity can result from sipping hot and cold beverages. Sometimes, even simply breathing in cold air can make your teeth hurt. Yet your teeth can have the same reaction of sharp pain or a dull ache when you drink a surgery, carbonated soda or munch on a chocolate bar. Can you still indulge your sweet tooth? Yes, you can! You’ll just need to take some precautions and consult your dentist, who can help your teeth become healthier and less sugar-sensitive.
Why are teeth sensitive to sugar?
If your teeth are sensitive, you’re not alone. One study of 787 adult patients revealed about 12 percent reported dental hypersensitivity, with the prevalence much higher among 18- to 44-year-olds.
To understand why your teeth can be sensitive to sugar, you have to look at the structure of your tooth. Covering your tooth is an outer layer of enamel. Underneath the enamel is the dentin filled with a network of tiny tubules and canals leading to the tooth’s center or pulp containing the nerves.
So what does your tooth’s structure have to do with sugar? Sugar combines with the bacteria in your mouth to form an acid that erodes the enamel. When enamel wears away, the dentin is left unprotected. The nerves in the center of the tooth are then exposed to unpleasant sensations caused by hot and cold temperatures as well as sugary, acidic foods. Once your teeth become sensitive to sugar due to thinning enamel, you’ll feel pain whenever you consume candy or sugar-laden drinks.
And while your saliva is packed with the minerals that restore your enamel, snacking on sweets prevents the saliva from strengthening the enamel, further weakening the tough outer layer of your tooth.
Treating sensitive teeth
After a dental procedure, such as a cavity filling, your teeth may be sensitive for a day or two. That’s normal. Prolonged sensitivity isn’t, but it can be treated. Your dentist may suggest various treatments, including:
Use desensitizing toothpaste. There are lots of toothpaste designed to prevent sensitivity. The toothpaste cuts off nerve pain by coating the dentin tubules. Try a couple of brands before you find one that works. But note that it may take a while before the sensitivity completely disappears.
Have your dentist apply a fluoride varnish. The hardened varnish will strengthen the enamel and block pain impulses from hitting the nerves in the tooth.
Explore dental bonding. If the enamel is severely eroded, your dentist can apply a dental bonding material on the tooth, diminishing the sensitivity. If a cavity causes sensitivity, your dentist can remove the decay and fill it with a composite resin.
Limit sweets. Hard candies, sugary gum, and sticky treats are the biggest culprits. But orange juice, with its acids and sugars, can be just as damaging to your teeth. Limit those foods to an occasional indulgence, or brush afterward if you do indulge. Better yet — chew on sugar-free gum when a craving for sugar strikes.
Maintain your oral hygiene. The best defense against sensitivity and enamel erosion is brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and flossing at night. Those simple practices reduce the amount of bacteria on your teeth. Make an appointment with your dental hygienist for a tooth cleaning and checkup to make your tooth sensitivity go away for good.
You don’t have to live with sensitive teeth
Schedule an appointment at Espire’s La Mesa location today! Our highly trained dentists can care for your tooth pain and sensitivity with the latest treatments. Don’t live near our La Mesa, CA, office? Find one of our other locations near you.
La Mesa, CA
8555 Fletcher Parkway
La Mesa, CA 91942